Peace with God and His Amazing Grace – Romans 5: 1-2
By: Alistair Brown
(Part 1 of a study of Romans 5:1-11.)
Agatha Christie, the writer of crime novels, is reckoned to be the world’s best selling novelist. Her book sales are around four billion, and some claim her publishing record is beaten only by the Bible and William Shakespeare.
She also holds the record for writing the play with the longest initial run. The Mousetrap began in London on November 25, 1952, and the run of performances – now numbering over 25,000 – is unbroken to today. That’s over sixty years of continuous performances.
When The Mousetrap reached its tenth anniversary – in 1962 – people thought that length of opening run was a magnificent achievement. A party was organized at the ultra posh and ultra expensive Savoy hotel in London to honor Agatha Christie’s achievement. She did not want to go – she was famously shy – but she had no choice. The party was in her honor!
But it almost never happened. She was told to come to the Savoy half an hour early so photographs could be taken. She went to the private room where the party was to be held, but the doorman turned her back. He didn’t recognize her, and told the person he thought was just a guest come early that it wasn’t yet time, and he sent her away!
Amazingly Agatha Christie just withdrew. She was world famous. The party was in her honor. All she had to do was say who she was and that she was expected early. She had every right of access, but she felt inadequate, as if she did not deserve all this attention, and she just left. Eventually someone found her wandering around the corridors of The Savoy and brought her back and the party finally happened with its chief guest.
Through Christ Christians have every right of access into the goodness of God. But sometimes we feel we don’t deserve it or don’t belong, and we miss out. The apostle Paul shows – to use his words – “we have access” to very special blessings from our heavenly Father, and he mentions two in particular.
Romans 5: 1-2
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Paul says: “You have access, and you can walk through the open door in front of you – unobstructed, unhindered, unburdened and now let me begin to tell you what you will find.”
What does that access bring us?
First, Paul says in verse 1, we have access to “peace with God.”
He writes: “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
New Testament scholars are not sure how to translate what Paul wrote here. It’s all to do with whether he was using the indicative or the subjunctive. Is he describing the peace we now have with God (as the NIV translates), or urging us now to be at peace with God?
What’s the difference between these two? Let me illustrate!
I have a brother who is about two years older than me, and his name is Alan. We were very close while growing up. We shared a bedroom, played with each other’s toys, got involved in soccer and cricket and a hundred other things. It was as good a brother relationship as it gets. Wonderful. Except when it wasn’t. We argued. Now, there’s a surprise….
For example, Alan was into the latest hit music long before me, and he’d have his radio turned up loud when I was trying to get to sleep. So I’d shout and complain, he’d turn the radio up more so he could hear, and before long our Mom would be in the room to sort it all out. She’d listen to the argument and then she’d set the radio volume down a bit from what Alan wanted but up a bit from what I wanted, and then ask each of us if we were all right with that. “Yes” I’d sigh. “Yes” Alan would sigh. “Peace at last…” Mom would sigh.
So the dispute was over. Peace had broken out. Peace, you might say, had been established.
But my Mom knew Alan and me all too well. Just when you think a war is over, it can restart, and Mom knew what might happen as soon as she left the room, so she would have one final word: “Now, the argument is over, so be at peace with each other.” Yes, the row was finished but, she was saying: “Settle down! Live at peace.”
The end of the dispute was one thing. But living rightly after she’d settled things was the other.
- So, was Paul saying “we have peace with God”? – the dispute, the separation from God, is now over.
- Or was he saying “now be at peace with God”? – because it’s over, because Jesus died for you, live at peace with God.
No-one can be wholly sure which of these two emphases Paul intended.
Of course both should be true for us.
Because of all God has done for us, we have a new status. We are no longer separated from God. We are people at peace now with God through Christ with a new foundation and security for our lives.
But we also need to be at peace – to live out our new status in a new relationship with God.
We have peace and must live at peace. Because the first is true, the second should also be true.
- Sin is gone. There is no condemnation now (Rom. 8:1). There are no disputes still to be settled. We are at peace.
- Therefore live the new life, live in fellowship with God, live for our Lord with every breath we take, with every fiber of our being, with every goal of our lives. Be at peace.
Through Christ and by faith, we have access to peace.
Second, as Paul says in verse 2, we have access to grace
He writes: “We have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”
Grace is the Greek word charis, with meanings like kindness, gift, or good will. In the New Testament it is often used in the sense of ‘undeserved favor.’
In my bad old days – before I took studying seriously – I would say a short prayer before each examination: “Oh God, please let me get a result better than I deserve.” I knew I had not worked hard enough, so I was praying for an output better than my input – for mercy, for undeserved favor! I do not recommend this approach to examinations.
But I do recommend thankfulness that God takes us as we are, undeserving, and baptizes us in his mercy and his goodness:
- Accepted, just as we are.
- Loved, just as we are.
- Valued, just as we are.
- Used in his service, just as we are.
- Taken to heaven one day, just as we are.
We are not on trial. We are not on probation. God has already admitted us fully into his love and into his family.
And Paul emphasizes that is the grace “in which we now stand.” We’ve been given access already. This is our place. This is where we belong.
It was 1960 at St. Andrews, Scotland and the final round of the Open Golf Championship. I was there with my Dad, at the last hole, the 72nd, and we were with the last two players.
We watched the players drive, and we were among the spectators allowed to stand behind them as they hit their second shots to the green. Then the people were supposed to walk slowly up the fairway to the green. No-one walked slowly – that crowd charged!
I was young and could not run fast, and that crazy crowd nearly knocked me over. Except my Dad ran a few steps in front of me, pushing people to the side so I was protected and could keep going. He got to the green, found a great place right at the front, moved the crowd back again with his long arms and pulled me through. “Stand here,” he said, “You’ll be safe, and it’s a great place to see everything.” It was. Kel Nagle, an Australian, sank the winning putt and by just one stroke beat the favorite, a young American called Arnold Palmer.
A few years ago I saw TV film of that moment from 1960 and right in the front row, wearing a dark coat, is a 9-year-old boy. That was me. My father had put me right there, in the best place, and I saw it all.
“Stand here in God’s grace – it’s where your Father has put you. You are safe and it’s a great place to be.” That’s what Paul says. It means:
Did we earn it? No – no amount of trying would have done that.
Did we deserve it? Sadly no – we have always fallen short of God’s standard.
Is it a gift? Yes – the greatest gift ever given. The gift was God’s own Son, and by him, by faith in him, the door is open for us to eternal life.
Isn’t it strange and sad that Agatha Christie should be right at the door of the room for her own party, and then turn back? She had access, but she went away.
We have access through Christ to peace with God and to his amazing grace. Never, ever, let us turn away but go forward to live in his peace and rejoice in his blessings.